Labour calls for a ‘common voice’ to fight bedroom tax

Labour in Northumberland is calling for ‘a common voice’ as it prepares to lobby the Government on the problems caused by the controversial so-called bedroom tax.

Figures released by Homes for Northumberland show that 1,119 tenants were affected by the changes to housing benefit relating to under-occupation, which came into force in April, in the week of June 17-23.

There were 299 cases in arrears from prior to the introduction of the changes, but 479 new arrears cases.

In the week ofJuly 22 to 28, 1,078 tenants were affected, a slight drop, but while the number of cases in arrears from before April 1 had dropped to 280, the number of new cases had risen to 494.

The Labour group also points to figures showing that Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) were only made to 95 tenants in the week of June 17-23 and 162 in the week of July 22 to 28, despite more than 1,000 tenants being affected.

The Government increased these following the Welfare Reform Bill in response to concerns about the effect of the changes to housing benefit.

Now Labour wants to join up with local MPs and voluntary groups to make the case to show that the Government’s DHP fund is ‘too little, too late’.

A Labour group spokesman said: “These figures highlight the misery and human impact of the bedroom tax and it’s clear that there are significant problems emerging which will mean tough decisions for families and local government.

“New arrears have rocketed by 62 per cent since the tax was introduced and it’s clear that the Government’s discretionary fund payment is woefully inadequate.

“This shouldn’t be about party political point scoring and we’re committed to working with everyone and every organisation which wants to lobby the Government on behalf of their communities.”

The changes to housing benefit mean that those deemed to have one spare bedroom will lose 14 per cent of their benefit and those with two or more spare bedrooms will lose 25 per cent.

The figures from Homes for Northumberland show that more than three-quarters of those tenants affected are losing 14 per cent of their benefit.